Thursday, February 8, 2018

5th Friday of Ordinary Time

Is 35:4-7a
Mk 7:31-37

The Gospel is fascinating on three counts. We recall and reenact it every time we baptize in one of the final rituals called the Ephphatha. The rubrics indicate that "the celebrant touches the ears and mouth of the child with his thumb, saying:
"The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear, and the dumb speak.
May He soon touch your ears to receive His word
and your mouth to proclaim his faith
to the praise and glory of God the Father."

The second count is that it is one of the few miracle narratives in which Jesus seems to struggle to effect the cure. He seems to exert physical force in the battle against the evil one. We heard "He groaned." Why? What did the groan sound like? Did the tone rise, fall, or remain steady? Was it a groan of pain, of effort, of relief? Was it all, some, or none of the above?

Finally, there is the question we can ask after almost every healing miracle in the New Testament. What happened to the man afterwards? We know the crowd did not obey Jesus' injunction against telling what they saw. I suspect the grapevine overheated quickly. Imagine the comments and replies if there had been Twitter or the Internet. Crossan and the Jesus Seminar dudes would have probably been apoplectic in the Twitter-verse. But nothing more is said of the man. We don't know his response to the gifts of hearing and speech. Did he become a local celebrity? Did his life go on as usual? Did he follow Jesus?

Travel into the unwritten part of the narrative and beyond during your meditation over the next day or so. Suppose you are the man's friend, or child, or neighbor. Did he change? How? Did your relationship with him change? How? What was the effect on this renewed man of being able to hear the Good News of Jesus and to share it fluently with others? What is the effect on you of having witnessed the miracle?

"Open our hearts, O Lord, to listen to the words of your Son."

The gospel antiphon is a short prayer that responds to the Gospel. Today's Gospel is part of our individual biographies. It summarizes our vocations to the Society. At some point Jesus touched each of us, our eyes and our ears. He said, ephphatha. Our eyes, ears as well as our hearts and our minds were opened. And we followed.

As we prepare to begin Lent on Wednesday we have the opportunity to revisit that ephphatha. We have the opportunity to answer once again with both our minds and our hearts.

"Open our hearts, O Lord,
to . . . the words of your Son."
Posting a bit early. Tomorrow is looking very busy. I have the Friday evening community Mass for the first time. Always a little daunting preaching to a congregation made up entirely of one's peers, colleagues, and friends. Because the congregation is going to be almost entirely Jesuit (though a Chinese priest who is a friend but not a Jesuit will also be there) I am able to talk about our vocations and how this gospel reflects those moments.

The photo was taken from the grounds of the Avila Motherhouse of the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm in Germantown, NY. This is a great congregation of sisters who run assisted living facilities and nursing homes for the elderly. I spend a lot of time at Carmel Terrace and/or St. Patrick Manor in Framingham. The buildings are separate but connected and a real nightmare for a man with no functioning sense of direction. When there I celebrate Mass, visit patients and residents, and periodically celebrate funeral Masses.

Carmel Terrace has around 40 assisted-living apartments for either singles or married couples. The Manor is a 350 bed nursing home with a rehab wing and a memory disorders wing. Excellent care. Love the sisters. Because of the impending snow for early Christmas morning I spent the night in guest quarters at the facility so as to be able to celebrate both Christmas Day Masses. It was a good move as the roads were ugly until about noon, when the last Mass was over and I was able to drive back to BC.

The motherhouse grounds overlook the Hudson River and the Catskills in Germantown, NY. Beautiful setting.

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

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